French title: Parade d’Amour (Parade of Love)
Spanish title: El Desfile del Amor (Parade of Love)
German title: Liebesparade (Love Parade)
Swedish title: Prins Gemålen (The Prince Consort)
From the play, The Prince Consort by Leon Xanrof and Jules Chancel. Film story: Ernest Vajda. Libretto: Guy Bolton. Editor: Merrill White. Photography: Victor Milner. Dialogue director: Perry Ivins. Art Director: Häns Dreier. Sound: Franklin Hansen. Songs: Victor Schertzinger and Clifford Grey. Movietone Recording.
Maurice Chevalier (Count Alfred Renard)
Jeanette MacDonald (Queen Louise)
Lupino Lane (Jacques)
Lillian Roth (Lulu)
Edgar Norton (Major Domo)
Lionel Belmore (Prime Minister)
Albert Roccardi (Foreign Minister)
Carl Stockdale (Admiral)
Eugene Pallette (Minister of War)
E.H. Calvert (Sylvanian Ambassador)
Russell [Russ] Powell (Afghan Ambassador)
Margaret Fealy (First Lady in Waiting)
Virginia Bruce (Lady in Waiting)
Josephine Hall (Lady in Waiting)
Rosalind Charles (Lady in Waiting)
Helene Friend (Lady in Waiting)
Yola D’Avril (Paulette)
André Cheron (Paulette’s husband)
Winter Hall (Priest)
Ben Turpin (Cross-eyed lackey)
Anton Vaverka (Cabinet minister)
Albert De Winton (Cabinet minister)
William von Hardenburg (Cabinet minister)
Adolph Faylauer (Noble at opera)
Jean Harlow (Extra in theatre audience and also in box at left)
Best Actor: Maurice Chevalier
Best Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Best Cinematography: Victor Milner
Best Interior Decoration: Häns Dreier
Best Sound Recording: Franklin Hansen
Ernst Lubitsch is universally acknowledged to be a great film director. This is unusual because he created no innovative techniques and, in America, directed no mammoth epics. His only contribution to the screen was style. Many of the best “sophisticated” comedies of the late silent era were obvious efforts to match the appeal and panache of his films. Lubitsch worked so closely with his script writers that all his films bear the hallmark of the Lubitsch wit. One of his more daring achievements was Lady Windermere’s Fan, in which Lubitsch substituted his own trademark visual epigrams for Oscar Wilde’s famous verbal ones—successfully.
His German-Jewish theatre origins are often apparent in European settings and operetta-like plots. He had, in fact, directed the silent version of The Student Prince. However, there was something definitely Gallic in his humorous cynicism for the foibles of man, especially man in pursuit of woman. His ingenious ability to convey a complex, frequently sexual, image with a simple, everyday (and uncensorable) gesture became known as “the Lubitsch touch.”
In the first year of sound, directors as well as actors found themselves working in an entirely new medium. Many of the better ones needed two or three pictures before evolving the basic techniques, the “language” that would be the sound film. Not Lubitsch. His first sound film bursts on the screen full born. With Lubitsch touches for the ear as well as the eye, The Love Parade is as enjoyable today as it was in 1929.
Admittedly sound film techniques were progressing at astonishing speed. The stationary camera, immobile in a booth, that was immortalized in Singin’ in the Rain, still existed, but directors and technicians were at work day and night devising new methods of recording sound while camera and actors were in motion. Some truly incredible camera work appears in late 1929 and, within two years, the camera regained the mobility of the late silent era.
One of the first attempts to liberate the camera (and save money) was to shoot scenes without dialogue on silent film and then intercut them with sound sequences. This was practical when the few sound cameras in existence were being rented around the clock and a studio might not have access to one when needed. But it produced a primitive effect when characters entered in dead silence and then the resumption of sound-film hiss was heard just before they spoke. It was even more disconcerting when the silent sequences were shot at slower speed so that the inserts had a comic speeded-up look.
Lubitsch, however, used silent footage to devastating effect for an aural Lubitsch touch during the telling of a presumably naughty story. We presume so because the camera cuts away to outside the window just as the denouement is reached, evoking more laughter than any punch line could.
The ladies in Lubitsch films were the European male’s Ideal Woman. They were beautiful and displayed as much of their beauty as possible. They were cunning but never intelligent. They could experience great distress but never pain. They were willing and even enthusiastic sex objects and needed only the establishment of the superiority of a particular male to end their resistance. Thereafter, they became his devoted slave. Small wonder that America’s male population loved Lubitsch heroines.
As a European, Lubitsch’s taste in women tended to the “zaftig.” Indeed, the heroines of his German films must be classed as ample. When he saw the slender Miss MacDonald, he ordered her to gain weight. During the shooting, milk shakes were handed to her at every opportunity until she acquired the plump sleekness that looked good in lacy “step-ins.”
French version: A silent film was, by its nature, an international medium. Titles in any language could be inserted to represent the dialogue. But with the coming of sound, talkies faced a huge dilemma. How to speak everyone’s language? European markets were essential for the continued prosperity and growth of Hollywood. For The Love Parade which obviously would have this problem (still unsolved today), it was addressed with a “French version,” Parade d’Amour, that incorporated the musical numbers in their entirety, plus some dialogue sequences in French that were either dubbed or reshot by Chevalier and MacDonald. The rest of the film employed titles for dialogue, as in The Jazz Singer which was still enjoying tremendous popularity in France. Variety wrote, “French version of the Chevalier picture is nothing to write home about. Reproduction was thin and tinny in the musical numbers, and the dialogue had been cut in favor of titles in French, the half-and-half version being very unsatisfactory. Song numbers came through well, however…. Business is sensational.”
The Love Parade opens with a pair of male hands turning the pages of a smart French magazine behind the credits. So that there is no doubt where we are, a line of chorus dancers appears, kicking away between giant champagne bottles as “P-A-R-I-S” flashes overhead.
It is the city of love, and Jacques (Lupino Lane), in valet’s livery, is enthusiastically preparing for an intimate dinner. He sets the table, describing each step in “Champagne,” then whips the tablecloth from beneath the china, flowers, and candles, and does a comic exit.
Behind the bedroom doors of the luxurious suite, a fierce argument is heard in French. Count Alfred Renard (Maurice Chevalier) appears, followed by Paulette (Yola D’Avril), who is furiously brandishing a fancy garter. Alfred gestures that it must be hers, but she raises her skirts, revealing that she has two already. She pulls a tiny gun from her purse but they are interrupted by a pounding on the door. Her husband! There is only one thing a lady can do. She shoots herself.
Alfred and her husband (André Cheron) stand frozen. Then the husband seizes the gun and revenges his wife by shooting Alfred. A puzzled look comes over Alfred’s face. He pats his chest tentatively, then shakes his head. The bullets are blanks. He and the husband kneel beside Paulette who, by this time, is watching the proceedings with some interest. The husband is overjoyed to get his straying lamb back and covers her with kisses.
They reconcile and are ready to go when he notices that her dress is undone. Several moments go by as he fumbles with the tiny hooks. Finally in exasperation, she flounces over to Alfred who expertly finishes dressing her. The couple depart and Alfred starts to toss the pistol and garter into a drawer already full of similar souvenirs. He is interrupted by the Sylvanian ambassador (E. H. Calvert), who tells him this scandal will be his last in Paris. As ambassador, he is ordering his military attaché (again.)back to Sylvania by the first train as punishment. “My wife has told me everything,” he comments darkly.
“I think,” gulps Alfred, “I’d better take the first airplane.” Jacques begs to accompany his master to Sylvania where his stories of the Frenchman and the farmer’s daughter will be new. Alfred disconsolately consents. He steps out onto the balcony overlooking the twinkling lights of Paris and sings farewell to the ladies of Paris: “Paris, Stay the Same.” From the servants’ quarters, Jacques reprises the song to the maids in the nearby windows and, finally, from the attic, Alfred’s bulldog serenades the sorrowing canines in the bushes below.
We now cut to Sylvania where a bus load of American tourists are yawning through a tour guide’s description of the royal palace—until he mentions that it cost $110 million dollars. They rise as one to gape at its sudden splendor.
In a gilded bed in a magnificent palace bedroom, Queen Louise is awakened by the drone of an approaching airplane. We get our first screen glimpse of Jeanette MacDonald as she yawns and stretches sensuously in a revealing lace nightgown. With a secret smile, she tells her ladies-in-waiting of her “Dream Lover.” (This charming waltz was used as background music in dozens of other Paramount pictures and can still be heard on Muzak in posh elevators.) The Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, (Margaret Fealy, Virginia Bruce, Helene Friend, Rosalind Charles, and Josephine Hall) join her in the chorus. On the high note, she sweeps off to her bath. (NOTE: The bath sequence is a modified copy of an over-the-top scene in Lubitsch’s Die Austernprinzessin (The Oyster Princess), 1919, in which he spoofs the nouveau-riche with a millionaire’s daughter who descends into an enormous marble bath, surrounded by a dozen attendants.)
Chest-deep in bubbles in a sunken marble tub, Louise is irritated by her ladies’ subtle references to her possible marriage. Marriage! Marriage! That’s all she hears! Outside, the band strikes up the wedding march. Didn’t she tell the conductor never to play the wedding march again? But this is a new conductor, she is told. The old one is getting married. Louise splutters her rage into a soapy sponge.
In her council room, she learns that her cabinet has given up all negotiations for her marriage. She is first relieved, then irritated. They hasten to explain that finding someone to be her husband is…rather difficult. He would not be a king, after all, only a prince consort. Prince consorts have nothing to do. That is, they have something to do, but they also have nothing to do.
Louise indignantly cites her various charms, ending by displaying the most perfect legs in Sylvania. “Thank you, Your Majesty,” sighs an elderly councilman.
Outside, Count Alfred is nervously awaiting an audience. The Major Domo (Edgar Norton) advises him to say as little as possible. His French accent may irritate the Queen. How did he ever acquire such an accent? Count Alfred begins a fascinating tale of a French doctor’s wife. At the crucial moment, the camera cuts outside the palace and through the window we silently watch the Major Domo enjoying the punch line. Count Alfred’s fears return when the entire cabinet pours out of the council room, fleeing the Queen’s rage. Things do not look good.
The Count is ushered in and stands at attention while the Queen reads a confidential report of his scandalous doings, puffing furiously on Miss MacDonald’s only screen cigarette. She smiles. Alfred smiles. She giggles. Alfred giggles. She scowls. Alfred cringes. She disappears behind the report in a cloud of smoke. Suddenly she slams the report down on the table and dashes from the room—to a nearby mirror where she eagerly powders her nose and pats her hair. Gravely she reappears. She understands that he has been seriously involved with a woman. “No,” smiles Alfred, “with several.”
As punishment she decides that he shall grow a beard. Count Alfred assures her that he looks terrible in a beard, not dashing as she happily concedes she had anticipated. He has a better punishment to suggest: that he be attached to her personal service, day and night. She is outraged—“You call that a punishment”—and invites him to dinner. In a charming duet, he assures her he will do “Anything to Please the Queen.”
The palace clock strikes eight, and interested parties gather to observe the momentous occasion. The faithful valet Jacques takes up a post on the terrace where he is joined by Lulu (Lillian Roth), the Queen’s maid. He starts to tell her the story of the Frenchman and the farmer’s daughter, but Lulu stops him. “But I am the Frenchman.” “You are not.” “How do you know?” “I am the farmer’s daughter.”
The cabinet gathers in the garden to discuss Alfred’s eligibility as a prince consort. It seems his great grandfather was the illegitimate son of one king and his grandmother was the sweetheart of another. “I had no idea he came from such a distinguished family,” murmurs the Minister of War (Eugene Pallette).
The ladies-in-waiting are outside the dining room keyhole. Jacques and Lulu climb to a nearby tree branch for a better view. We follow the progress of the dinner through the excited faces and comments of the onlookers. Thus we learn that the Queen laughs, drinks, dines, and finally beckons Alfred to follow her into her boudoir, closing the door behind. “Heaven save the Queen!” cries Jacques and topples backward from his perch.
In her boudoir, the Queen suggests that the Count forget she is a Queen. What would he do if she were a mere woman and he were meeting her for the first time? Nervously he swallows his glass of brandy, then takes her hand and tenderly kisses the palm. “Oh, but if it’s like this at first—what can be left for later?”
“Plenty,” he assures her. He tells her that she surpasses all other women in his life: “My Love Parade.” Louise joins him in song and then in a surge of emotion, he kisses her long and gently. She is stunned, afraid, then trembling, she orders him to go. He refuses. “Go, now…Alfred!” “Yes…Louise!” he cries, striding exultantly from the room.
In joyous confusion, she leans against the piano, hitting the keys. Suddenly the waiting courtiers hear the Queen singing “Dream Lover.” Her search is ended. Their voices join hers in a triumphant conclusion that becomes the wedding march.
Count Alfred is being dressed by Jacques for his wedding. He is unnerved to find that one of his medals depicts a cross-eyed king. Whenever he has seen a cross-eyed man, he confides, something terrible has happened. The door opens and a cross-eyed lackey (silent comedy star Ben Turpin) announces that the Queen is ready.
In the throne room, the Major Domo pounds the floor with an enormous staff to announce the entrance of the Queen. In an exquisite gown and pearl tiara, Queen Louise is escorted down a grand staircase by numerous pages and trainbearers, followed by her ladies-in-waiting.
Then the Major Domo taps the floor with a tiny staff to announce the entrance of Count Alfred. All goes smoothly until the clergyman (Winter Hall) asks Alfred if he will be “an obedient and docile husband.” There is silence. The cabinet members fidget. The Afghanistan ambassador (Russell Powell), who disapproves of women dominating men, smirks. Louise implores Alfred with her eyes. He melts. “I do.” Everyone breathes again. “I now pronounce you wife and man,” intones the clergyman.
The couple’s wedding night is interrupted by cannon fire outside the window. Alfred is completely disconcerted, but Louise is transfixed: “Our bridal music!” The cannons fire and recoil, fire and recoil, through the night.
In the garden, Lulu is equally transported. She urges Jacques to make it a double wedding, pointing out the joys of nonnoble love: “Let’s Be Common.” They do one of the funniest and most charming dance duets on film. This delightful sequence emphasizes how wasteful Hollywood was not to make more use of these superb performers.
Four weeks have passed and Alfred’s joy in doing “something but nothing” is starting to wane. Louise is busy all day, meeting with cabinet members and reviewing her troops, which she does stirringly to music: “March of the Grenadiers.” (This courtyard set was much used at Paramount, and Lubitsch skillfully mixes long shots from an earlier silent film showing the courtyard filled with soldiers and footage of Jeanette and twenty or so of her guard.) Louise returns home to find Alfred sulking and attempts to cheer him up. After the foreign loan is arranged, she will take him to Vienna and buy him some nice new uniforms.
Protocol prevents Prince Alfred from taking any part in the government although he is full of ideas and plans. The final insult comes when he learns that he can’t even eat breakfast without his wife’s permission. He stalks off to the palace garden to dine on green apples and accept the consolation of his little bulldog. The dog is the only one in the palace who looks up to him. He sings of his tribulations in “Nobody’s Using It Now,” which is somewhat confusing since “it” is the only thing any one is using.
I’ve sown wild oats,
I have indeed.
But now that I’ve stopped sowing them,
I’m going to seed.
(Copyright Famous Music Corp.)
The cabinet informs Queen Louise that unless she and Alfred appear at the opera that night with happy smiles to demonstrate their marital bliss, Sylvania’s Wall Street loan is in danger. Without it, they are broke.
Alfred bursts in on the meeting. He has more than a smile to save the Country. He has a budget. Protocol prevents anyone from reading it, and Louise must go along with the cabinet plan. Alfred is ordered to appear that night in full uniform and in the very best of humor. “If Your Majesty had not already commanded me to smile,” he cries bitterly, “I would laugh!” The door slams behind him and his laughter echoes down the hall.
The servants have taken sides in the rift, the women siding with the Queen and the men with the prince. Lulu and Jacques lead each faction in song: “The Queen is Always Right,” and end in a knock-about dance on the kitchen table.
The fatal hour approaches. Alfred appears in a traveling suit. He is leaving at once for Paris. He will attend the opera “only with soldiers and handcuffs.”
“Alfred!” Louise wails, but he is gone. She sinks into a chair, alone and weeping. The strains of “Dream Lover” are heard, and she sings through her tears until another melody drowns it out. It is the “March of the Grenadiers.” Her guard is waiting. Her duty is clear. Drying her tears and squaring her shoulders, she dons a white fox wrap and starts for the opera, down a grand staircase and through the marble halls (the lobby of the Los Angeles Biltmore) in a truly beautiful tracking shot, her heels clicking proudly, defiantly, to the music.
The opera audience murmurs knowingly when she steps into her box—alone. Louise sits in an agony of embarrassment. The Afghan ambassador leers. Suddenly there is silence.
Alfred has appeared behind her in full dress uniform. Everyone rises and cheers. (Jean Harlow can be seen as an extra both in the orchestra and in a close-up of ladies in a box—a busy lady.)
Alfred has come, he tells Louise, because he doesn’t want to ruin the woman he once loved. Tomorrow he is leaving for Paris where he will file for divorce as soon as the loan is secured. She tells him haughtily that he needn’t have bothered to come, and he cheerfully gets up to go. She pulls him back fiercely. Very well, he says, he will stay if she begs him. It takes several tries before she can get the proper supplicating tone in her voice. Fully enjoying this change of status, Alfred ogles the ballerinas on stage until Louise threatens to tear the opera glasses from his eyes.
“If you were just a mere woman, you could make a scandal, but you can’t,” he chortles. “That’s what you get for being a Queen.” The Afghan ambassador gleefully offers the prince an even more powerful pair of glasses.
Back at the palace, Louise’s sobs can be heard throughout the east wing. In the west wing, Alfred is gaily singing as he packs. Louise spots Alfred’s satin pajamas on a chair hanging over a chair and bawls all the harder. Then she determines to act. She slips on a beaded chiffon robe with fur cuffs and heads for Alfred’s room—across the grand hall, up the grand staircase, and along another hallway to his door.
“Alfred,” she calls in a tiny voice. “A mouse is in my room.” He tells her to call her soldiers. Her sobbing and his singing increase in volume as they try to drown each other out. Suddenly Alfred opens the door and marches cheerfully toward her room. Louise, amazed and then delighted, hurries ahead, doffs her robe and leaps into bed.
Alfred arrives, but it is only to retrieve his pajamas. She pursues him back across the grand hall, up the grand staircase and down the hall into his room. There she locks the door behind her and hides the key in her ample sleeve. “Where shall we live in Paris?” she asks tearfully. She will follow him wherever he goes.
Then there’s no use for him to leave, he decides. But he must think of a suitable punishment. Louise has one to suggest: that he take command, not only of affairs of state but of her. She shall be attached to him from morning till “—er—from night till morning!”
“And you call that a punishment?”
They reprise “My Love Parade” as Alfred slowly draws the boudoir curtain and the orchestra rises in happy conclusion.
The Love Parade remains one of the most sophisticated (both structurally and esthetically) and enjoyable of the 1929 film musicals. It also proves that the more things change between men and women, the more they remain the same.
The Love Parade was Maurice Chevalier’s second American film and secured him a near-permanent place in Hollywood for some years to come. He was, in fact, almost the only star to continue making musicals during the period when the public stayed away from them en masse and movie marquees would advertise “This is NOT a musical.” His first American film, Innocents of Paris earlier in 1929, had been quite wooden, but the critics singled him out for praise. Although he was forty years old, Chevalier overwhelmed the screen with youthful vitality and raw sex appeal. As a child performer he had specialized in bawdy songs. The incongruity had shocked audiences into laughter and applause. But as he grew older, he found people no longer laughed at a mature performer singing the same songs, so he perfected the glance, the shrug, the smile, the roll of the eyes that, like the “Lubitsch touch,” could say everything and yet nothing. It is a near-tragedy that sound film wasn’t perfected fifteen years earlier so that more of this magnificent performer’s early years could have been saved for us.
English comedian Lupino Lane, a close relative of Ida Lupino, had appeared in several American silents, among them D.W. Griffith’s Isn’t Life Wonderful (1924) plus a number of silent comedy shorts. 1929 saw an “English invasion” in Hollywood similar to the “German invasion” of talent in the mid-twenties. English actors could speak. They had, without exception, a thorough stage background.
One of the first quandaries facing the early sound film was “What is American speech?” What regional accents would be accepted by a country not yet homogenized by radio and television? Because Hollywood drew so heavily on the New York stage, the accents most commonly heard that first year were British, New York, and Brooklyn with a generous dash of Yiddish. A number of careers changed course because of accents. Johnny Mack Brown’s rich Alabama drawl reduced him from sophisticated playboy rôles to farm boys, cowhands, and an occasional Texas oil millionaire. Reginald Denny, on the other hand, could no longer portray heartland Americans when the microphone revealed his elegant British diction.
After a brief flurry, isolationism set in and most British actors departed or stayed on to do character rôles. Ronald Colman, Leslie Howard, and Herbert Marshall were among the few surviving leading men. Lupino Lane made a few more musicals and then returned to a film and stage career in England.
There is a story that Lillian Roth was brought to Hollywood to play Queen Louise, but when Lubitsch heard her Brooklyn accent, he had a comic rôle written for her instead. Lubitsch spoke English like a “Dutch” comedian and probably wouldn’t have known an accent if it bit him, but he would never have picked the zany comedienne with the winning kewpie doll face for his frosty Queen. The comic pair of lovers was a standard operetta fxture and much of the film’s texture depends on the contrasts between the two couples. Like Chevalier, Lillian Roth exhibited great vitality and charm and did a string of Paramount musicals, including Miss MacDonald’s next feature, The Vagabond King, but her career would be cut short by personal conflicts.
While Chevalier drew most of the acting raves (Lubitsch rated the most space in almost every review), Jeanette was not overlooked in her screen debut. Richard Watts of the New York Herald Tribune called it “an entirely winning performance….On the stage Miss MacDonald was regarded as a competent player and singer, but nothing in her past work has given reason for anticipating the skillful and alluring performance she brings to The Love Parade. Blessed with a fine voice, a sense of comedy and a definite screen personality, she registers an individual success that makes her future in the new medium an enviable one.
Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times attended the premiere in New York City and commented: “Miss MacDonald sings charmingly. In fact, the microphone takes better to her singing than to her speaking and, as she was there [at the premiere] last night and said a few words to the spectators, it was quite evident that the fault lay with the treacherous microphone and not with Miss MacDonald’s diction.” Amidst the surfeit of musicals that were bombarding the screen, Hall found The Love Parade “a delightful entertainment…one that makes the spectator hopeful that the silly diatribes that have so recently been seen on the screen will be cast in the background for this sophisticated, intelligent fun.”
(See Discography for further information)
“Dream Lover” (Jeanette MacDonald)
“March of the Grenadiers” (Jeanette MacDonald)
“Mon Cocktail d’Amour” (My Love Parade) (Chevalier)
“My Love Parade” (Chevalier)
“Nobody’s Using It Now” (Chevalier)
“Personne Ne S’en Sert, Maintenant” (“Nobody’s Using It Now”) (Chevalier)
“Paris, Je T’aime d’Amour” (“Paris, Stay the Same”) (Chevalier)
“Paris, Stay the Same” (Chevalier)
All music is by Victor Schertzinger and lyrics by Clifford Grey, except ballet music as indicated. In listing performers after each title, “and” denotes a genuine duet, while commas between names indicate a sequence of singers.
Overture: “My Love Parade,” “Champagne,” “My Love Parade,” “Dream Lover”
“Champagne” (Lupino Lane)
“Paris, Stay the Same” (Chevalier, Lane, Jiggs the dog)
“Dream Lover” (MacDonald with Fealey, Bruce, Friend, Hall, Charles)
“Anything to Please the Queen” (MacDonald and Chevalier)
“My Love Parade” (Chevalier, MacDonald)
“Dream Lover” reprise (MacDonald, chorus)
“Sylvania’s Queen” (chorus)
“Let’s Be Common” (Lane and Roth)
“March of the Grenadiers” (MacDonald and male chorus)
“Nobody’s Using It Now” (Chevalier)
“The Queen is Always Right” (Roth and Lane with chorus)
“Dream Lover” reprise (MacDonald sobbing) INTO:
“March of the Grenadiers” reprise (male chorus)
“Valse Tatiana” ballet by O. Potoker
Finale: “My Love Parade” reprise (Chevalier and MacDonald)